Saturday, September 8, 2007

History of Diabetes

History of Diabetes

Although diabetes has been recognized since antiquity, and treatments of various efficacy have been known in various regions since the Middle Ages, and in legend for much longer, pathogenesis of diabetes has only been understood experimentally since about 1900.The discovery of a role for the pancreas in diabetes is generally ascribed to Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski, who in 1889 found that dogs whose pancreas was removed developed all the signs and symptoms of diabetes and died shortly afterwards. In 1910, Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer suggested that people with diabetes were deficient in a single chemical that was normally produced by the pancreas—he proposed calling this substance insulin, from the Latin insula, meaning island, in reference to the insulin-producing islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

The endocrine role of the pancreas in metabolism, and indeed the existence of insulin, was not further clarified until 1921, when Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best repeated the work of Von Mering and Minkowski, and went further to demonstrate they could reverse induced diabetes in dogs by giving them an extract from the pancreatic islets of Langerhans of healthy dogs.Banting, Best, and colleagues (especially the chemist Collip) went on to purify the hormone insulin from bovine pancreases at the University of Toronto. This led to the availability of an effective treatment—insulin injections—and the first patient was treated in 1922. For this, Banting and laboratory director MacLeod received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923; both shared their Prize money with others in the team who were not recognized, in particular Best and Collip. Banting and Best made the patent available without charge and did not attempt to control commercial production. Insulin production and therapy rapidly spread around the world, largely as a result of this decision.

The distinction between what is now known as type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes was first clearly made by Sir Harold Percival (Harry) Himsworth, and published in January 1936.

Despite the availability of treatment, diabetes has remained a major cause of death. For instance, statistics reveal that the cause-specific mortality rate during 1927 amounted to about 47.7 per 100,000 population in Malta.